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Greeks Have High Hopes for New Leftist Government

  • Reuters

Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, second right, and Deputy Prime Minister Giannis Dragasakis, second left, chat during the first cabinet meeting of the new government at the Parliament in Athens, on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015.

Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, second right, and Deputy Prime Minister Giannis Dragasakis, second left, chat during the first cabinet meeting of the new government at the Parliament in Athens, on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015.

The new Greek government said January 28 it would freeze the planned sale of a stake in Greece's biggest utility, continuing a block on privatizations agreed with international lenders after halting a sale of the port of Piraeus a day earlier.

The move signals that the left-wing government of Alexis Tsipras aims to stick to election pledges despite warning shots from the euro zone and financial markets.

In the Greek capital Athens, residents are closely watching the new coalition's every move, waiting and hoping that the Syriza-led government will make good on election promises to end austerity.

“All Greeks, we hope that he (Tsipras) will make it. Of course the first signs are not entirely positive, as they had promised a flexible formation and yet we have a government with 40 ministers and very few women. Let's hope they will manage,” said 33-year-old civil servant, Kosmas Christos.

“I am quite an optimist, I believe in Tsipras, but I am a little afraid he doesn't fulfill his promises,” said 21 year-old university student, Leonidas Spiridis.

“Let's hope they will do something. At six this morning I saw on the TV the new scheme. There's nothing more to say than let's hope for the best,” said 62-year-old supermarket employee, Dimitris Plapoutas.

But for others, like accountant Marika, the election of a leftist government is a disaster, stoking fears that Syriza's anti-austerity policies will result in Greece leaving the euro zone.

“What can I expect from this little boy? What can I expect from leftists? We are waiting, we are on tenterhooks and we are waiting to see what will happen. In five, six months we'll go to hell,” she said.

Investors are worried about Greek banks' liquidity and whether they will have continued access to ECB funding, with an extension to the country's bailout deal with the euro zone due to expire at the end of this month.

The newly installed government's plan to negotiate a new debt deal has already run into resistance from its lenders, who fear allowing Athens to write off some of its obligations would encourage other troubled countries to seek similar relief.

Europe has shown a willingness to give Athens more time to pay its debts, but has stressed it will not yield to demands for debt forgiveness.

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